So she wants a doula…..where does that leave you?

So she wants a doula…..

I often speak to women who are looking for birth support and have a concerned partner wondering where they will fit into things if they hire a doula. For the most part, partners can get to grips with the idea that she would like the support of someone ‘hand picked’ for their family and who has taken time to get to know them and what is important to them all. The part they’re often unsure about is what the dynamic will be on the big day. ‘If you have a doula, where do I fit into the picture?’ ‘Will she replace me and the support I have to offer?’ ‘Does this mean you think I’m not up to the job?’ – these are a few of the common concerns partners have when the idea of having a doula comes up.

Let me cut straight to the chase: as delightful as your woman is, I am not in love with her. This is your woman, your baby and your birth. I can’t replace you and neither would I want to. My job is to be there for you BOTH and to support you to participate at a level you feel comfortable and confident at. What that support looks like only you two can decide. Some partners know from a past experience that they are not going to be the calm, reassuring presence really needed in the birth space. They may be naturally anxious and feel they would be better taking a role they feel more confident in, like looking after other children for example. But for the most part, partners are keen to support the birthing woman by being present at the birth.

Now because my clients and I have made a personal connection when they interviewed me and I spend time getting to know them prior to the birth, I inevitably become emotionally invested in them. I care. If I didn’t, then I would be in the wrong job entirely. I care deeply that they have a positive and fulfilling experience and feel well supported on their journey. But at the same time I have the necessary distance to remain objective and unflappable during what is, let’s face it, one of the most intensely challenging and emotionally-charged situations a couple will ever find themselves in.

imageI have been a doula for 3 years now and as a result my husband has involuntarily been sucked into the birth world. Apart from the fact he now pays much more attention to full moons than ever before and texts me from work for an update on ‘niggle watch’, he’s really had very little choice other than to learn more and more about birth and the role of the doula. Until recently, the subject of us having a doula if we ventured down the parenthood path for a fourth time, hadn’t come up. When it did, he confidently announced that there would be no need for us to hire a doula – he knew more than sufficient to be able to deal with any potential obstacles – optimal positioning? Tick! Creating an oxytocin-friendly environment? Tick! Double-hip squeeze? No probs! Ok, so he felt he had lots of knowledge to get us through some of the practical stuff and you know what, I have absolutely no doubts about that at all – he’s a sensational birth partner! Then I asked him how he would deal with a doctor suggesting an intervention that he knew I was really keen to avoid? Or a midwife wanting to transfer us in from home because things were ‘taking too long’? His honest answer – he would go with what ever they said was best and not even question it. I don’t ever want to feel resentment towards him in a situation like that or feel abandoned or unsupported by the person who means most to me in the world and this is another reason why we would NOT be giving birth without a doula: someone objective and knowledgable who cares, but can see the wood for the trees.

So, as I said, he’s a splendid birth partner and I can’t imagine ‘wanting’ anyone there to support me physically and emotionally, more than him; as a doula, I understand and recognise that in my work. I’m not there to step on anyone’s toes – not partners, not doctors or midwives. I know my role, my boundaries and my limitations. I also know what I’m good at. I can read labouring women like a book in a way that not everyone can. But let’s also be honest: is the regular person on the street going to spend any great length of time around labouring women in their lifetime? Enough to be able to learn how they really tick? You can hardly be expected to know what they are silently trying to say or are thinking, from a look, the way they breathe….I’m not saying I always get it perfect and I’m not offended when I am told to stop or not to do something and neither should you be. When I see those looks and hear that change of breathing, it doesn’t necessarily need to be me personally that responds. When a partner is wanting to be present and supporting, then I can help translate that into actions THEY can take. I can help show you where to press, a suggestion, when to offer a drink, how to mirror breathing to keep her relaxed…how to be the best birth partner you can possibly be. And when you’re tired, hungry, overwhelmed or just need a breath of fresh air, I can step in and give you a break and still hold that space you’ve been holding for her.

Being invited to be a part of the birth of someone’s child is a privilege beyond words. Being asked to walk beside a family at one of the most intimate and personal times is something that I will never, ever, take for granted. And walk beside is exactly what I do. I don’t lead. It’s not my journey to steer – it’s yours and your doula will be there in what ever way supports you AND your partner.

Testimonials from the partners of some of the women Lisa has supported can be found here.